We spent last weekend in Philly and had an incredible time. The main reason we went this particular time was so I could run the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut half marathon for the second year in a row, but since we love the city decided to make it into a fun mini vacation as well…similar to most of our race weekends.
On Friday after work Jeff and I signed Ava out a little early from school and then we picked up Nolan too. Since it was National Doughnut Day, we couldn’t start our trip without a yummy treat first!
Once we were all cleaned up we were on our way. Perfect timing for both kids to get a solid nap in before a busy weekend! The ride was easy and we checked into our hotel. I headed out for a quick run, as I have mentioned before I need to get up and move after longer car rides due to the risk of blood clots. A short 2 mile run helps put my mind at ease and stretch out after sitting for a while.
When I got back, Jeff headed out to run and by that time my parents and niece Rowan had made it to the hotel too. We all went out to dinner (pasta for me, of course) and then went back to get a good night’s sleep. My kids are like little hotel pros these days which makes the transition with traveling and sleeping away very easy. In the morning, we took the kids to my parent’s room and Jeff drove me to the start.
This half marathon is by far the most challenging I have ran so far. I had also ran it last year, so I knew what was coming. The strange thing for me this weekend was that I did not know I was 100% running this race until the weekend before. I was waiting on Jeff’s baseball schedule so did not even register until then. It made training slightly interesting, especially having just ran a half marathon only 2 weeks before. But I was excited to get back on that course!
I literally stood in line for the bathroom right up to the start of the race. It’s not a big event, about 600 runners. Since it is a German themed race, many runners were dressed in leiderhosen and other German outfits which sets the tone for a fun race!
I got to the start literally 15 seconds before we were off. The entire race is a trail, some paved, some not and the beginning is quite narrow. Once you get to the first mile, things start to thin out, and once again I somehow found myself spending the first half of the race completely alone. Usually I don’t mind that, but sometimes having other runners around can distract me from all of the huge hills.
One word I would not use to describe this course is flat. You are constantly climbing unless you are at the top of a hill, in which case you are going down a steep hill. There really isn’t a time when you have a break at the top. I find this to be the most challenging part. Not being able to catch my breath or recover a little before running down the hill is difficult for me. I am hoping to remember this and train a little for it next year. Add in the 90% humidity, and breathing was probably my biggest struggle of this race.
Around the halfway point we encountered Mount Cookoo. It is exactly as the name describes, nuts! A narrow, winding, somehow always uphill climb full of giant tree roots, rocks, and slippery mud. But I love it! I had actually forgotten just how long we were in that trail, but it is over a mile of some real tough conditions. There are a lot of horses in the park as well, so I’m sure you can imagine the smell is a little interesting and there quite a few flies!
Back onto the main path after Mount Cookoo you basically just repeat the hilly trail back to the finish, which was also the start. At this point I spent a few miles running with a young guy, which although we never said a word to each other, he kept me going and made me feel a little secure that someone was nearby…I was starting to feel that I was somewhat dehydrated and had goosebumps by mile 9. I ended up taking a good amount of time at the water stops from mile 7 on trying to replenish with both Gatorade and water but knew I needed to be smart and not push it at this point. My goal became “finish”, and try and get under my time from last year which was a 1:51. At mile 12 I checked my watch and was at 1:40, which is my usual time for a half this year.
I have to be honest, one of the big reasons that I did not just give up and walk the rest of the way was Ava. She can be apprehensive about things, and even though she has seen other kids grab their dad or mom’s hand and cross the finish she has never done it. I know she had wanted to, but new things can be intimidating for her at first (as they are for most 5 year olds). So I’ve never pushed for it, but secretly hoped one day she would ask. During the week she had told me this would be the race. I was beyond excited about it and we talked about how it would go and that we would hold hands, etc. Knowing she was standing there, most likely talking herself up to actually do it, I had to do the same. Thinking about her got me to that finish, and when I saw her, hand extended, I felt completely better. We crossed the line and high-fived; she looked so happy and I was so proud of her!
We headed to the after party at the German club and had a great time watching the German dancers and accordian player. The kids danced and the weather was hot but beautiful. The fun after this race is another big reason I like it so much. Everyone has a great time. Soon after they began the award ceremony and I won my age group. The awards at this race are great. The overall winners receive a Cookoo Clock and age group winners receive these cute little German weather houses. Since I had placed in my age group last year as well, Ava claimed this one.
After the race we decided to head to our next hotel over by the airport. We changed into our bathing suits and all went swimming and just hung at the hotel the rest of the night. My sister who had been working that morning met us there and the kids had a blast.
Sunday morning Jeff and I headed out to the John Heinz National Refuge for a nice run. We had explored there last summer and I was looking forward to getting back again. I was tired from the race the day before, but it’s just too beautiful to pass up.
We got back to the hotel, met the rest of the crew at breakfast, got everyone ready and drove to the Franklin Institute. Right now there is a fantastic Pixar exhibit going on, so we paid the extra to have it included in our admission, and we were not disappointed. I had not been to the Franklin Institute since I was a kid but had always loved it. It was neat to not only see the newer exhibits but also to see that the giant heart and train were still there. The kids really enjoyed it and we spent close to 4 hours there. They were all pretty exhausted by that point so we decided to let them nap on the drive home and then got dinner with my sister once we were back in town before unpacking and resetting for the week.
I know I always say it, but these weekends really are about so much more than my race. I put a lot of time into planning out which races I will do for this reason. I research what’s around that makes it into an adventure, learning experience, or just a fantastic memory for our family. I was very happy that Jeff was able to be there this weekend since he hadn’t made it to any other half marathon yet this year. The added bonus is that my parents and sister join us on almost every weekend. The support I receive from my family is incredible. There is always someone willing to watch my kids while I get out on a long run. Or someone who is willing to bike or run alongside me. My kids are great about joining me in the stroller, and Ava is always up for a quick mile or two. As long as I have their enthusiasm and support, we will continue these weekends and I will continue to race. When you make these weekends about more than just running they become truly special and I hope memories my kids will always treasure. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be crossing the line with Ava after her first half marathon!
Life is an adventure. Enjoy the journey.